The return of Dr. Smooth. Well, sort of. Michael Brantley is appearing in Akron with the Rubberducks this weekend as he continues his shoulder rehabilitation for the Cleveland Indians. On Friday, he was scheduled to go go seven innings and during this time was able to come to the plate four times.
In his first plate appareance, he hit a chopper to the first base side which resulted in an out (video unavailable).
In his second at bat, after a high inside pitch which nearly hit him, Brantley flied out to centerfield.
In his third plate appareance Brantley popped out to the shortstop.
In his fourth plate appareance he grounded out.
In the outfield he recorded three putouts. His play was solid with nothing that really stuck out either positively or negatively.
The hope for all who were watching Brantley tonight would be some power shown, even if it was just in the form of loud outs. Instead, he got exactly one ball out of the infield. It was not an ideal night for the outfielder. He was aggressive at the plate throughout the evening, but he was not able to make strong contact outside of his second at bat. In the other three at bats, he looked like a player returning from a shoulder injury.
It was a bit concerning, because for as well as the Indians have played there is little doubt that they are a team that could use Michael Brantley back in the lineup.
The biggest addition the Indians could possible make as the trade deadline approaches would be to add Brantley’s bat, even if it is one that hit with significantly less power than he has in the past. A healthy Brantley has been a near seven and four WAR player the last two years, and there might not be another player on the trade market capable of those numbers other than possiblyJonathan Lucroy. The problem is Lucroy would likely cost Bradley Zimmer, Sheffield, and more. Brantley costs the Indians nothing. He also completely changes the lineup and clears up some of the issues in the outfield.
The plan for the Indians is that he will appear in back-to-back games building up (and testing) his strength. As such, The hope is that he will be able to be the designated-hitter on Saturday. After talking to Michael after the game this was confirmed, so he will be playing again on Saturday. His first back to back appearance in a game since his set back with his shoulder injury.
So, the Indians are focused on returning a healthy Brantley to their lineup. While Friday was not a strong appearance, it is the first step to getting an All-star level bat in the Indians lineup in the next month.